The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is a vital artery for Northern California commuters, carrying nearly 300,000 vehicles per day. So closing the span for seismic upgrades presented state transportation officials with perhaps the ultimate high-profile and high-pressure project.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), working with a team of private contractors, devised a plan to demolish a 350-foot stretch of roadway and slide a new, seismically strengthened piece of road in its place using a series of computer-controlled hydraulic jacks. The work needed to be done entirely over the three-day Labor Day weekend, with the bridge returning to service in time for commuters to return to work on Tuesday morning.

Following a carefully choreographed process, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol closed the bridge at 8 p.m. on Friday Aug. 31. Work was completed by 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 3 -- 11 hours ahead of schedule.

"We're tremendously proud to be able to open the bridge early," said Caltrans Director Will Kempton, in a statement released after the project's completion. Besides replacing the roadway, located on what's known as the Yerba Buena portion of the bridge, the project included installation of improved signs, alerts and electronic toll collection booths. The entire procedure cost around $40 million and is only phase one in a handful of planned improvement initiatives.

 
All-Star Team
Caltrans worked with C.C. Myers, a Sacramento, Calif.-based construction firm, which in turn hired several subcontractors to help with the planning and demolition stages of the weekend project. Mammoet, a Dutch firm specializing in heavy lifting projects, devised the method for sliding a new, pre-constructed section of road into the cleared out portion of highway.


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Tamara Warta  |  Staff Writer